NAHJ members, demand your right to vote!

Last week, the National Association of Hispanic Journalists (NAHJ) announced a formal decision to cancel the 2020 national board elections.

The board’s decision was based, in the association’s words, on a need to “temporarily limit any unnecessary radical change in the interest of preserving a strong and effective organizational foundation.”

But if anything is “unnecessary” and “radical,” it is the decision to cancel the election. I don’t take issue with the board’s self-evaluation as being a “strong and effective organizational foundation.” But that evaluation is not the board’s to make. It belongs to the members. With the exception of the president, each board member is entitled to seek re-election to his/her current position and to explain to members why their retention is in the best interest of the association.

As NAHJ noted, the terms set to expire include executive board members elected in 2018 and positions filled by appointment in 2019. The next election was to be tied, in accordance with the bylaws, to the annual convention. The annual convention has not been canceled, but it is foreseeable that even if it is held, it may not be well attended. Even if it were canceled, NAHJ would still be permitted under DC non-profit law and the NAHJ bylaws to hold an election as long as the association ensures that every member receives a ballot.

In this age of electronic voting, this is easier than ever.

The national board advised chapter leaders to extend their official terms using the same faulty logic. I believe the chapters should abide by their bylaws, not by this misguided and legally questionable precedent.

New York City was able to change mayors in the immediate aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. Yes, a primary taking place THAT DAY was postponed. But not for a full year. The Nov. election still took place.

Again, I do not question the motives of the board that voted to take the action of canceling the election. These are volunteers who committed themselves to acting in the best interest of the association. I told Hugo Balta that this was a bold decision. I also said it was one I cannot support. It’s not the board’s motives that are in question. It is their legal authority to usurp our right as members to elect our leadership.

That’s why I signed a letter urging the national board to reconsider this decision. I am joining six other former presidents as well as a host of current and lifetime members, and I am asking all NAHJ members in good standing to do the same.

If you’re an NAHJ member, a former board member, a lifetime member, and/or a founding member, please CLICK HERE, read the letter, and add your name.

Thank you.

[This article, and the linked letter, did not originally credit former NAHJ Vice President Marilyn Garateix for her leadership role in this protest effort].

Published by Olmeda

At-large director on the national board of the Society of Professional Journalists. Former president of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists and of UNITY: Journalists of Color. An extreme moderate, not committed to political ideology. Stepfather to two wonderful daughters. Father to two wonderful sons. Husband. Rogue karaoke singer. Humanist

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